Anesthesia for Labor and Delivery

The delivery of your baby is an exciting and momentous experience. It is our goal at UC Health to assist you in having a safe, comfortable and happy childbirth. Many women have concerns and questions about pain control during labor. Your Obstetric Anesthesia Care Team will work closely with you to determine the best option for you.

Labor can be unpredictable and the mode of delivery will be affected by many factors. The majority of women deliver vaginally, but some may require Cesarean Section.

Labor Pain

  • Varies with each patient and delivery
  • Can be affected by several factors:
    • Size and position of your baby
    • Strength of your contractions
    • Your personal beliefs and pain tolerance
  • Only you can know your level of pain and you should never feel guilty about requesting pain relief.

Options for Pain Relief:

Vaginal Delivery

  • Natural Childbirth
    • Some women cope with labor using only breathing and relaxation techniques
  • Intravenous Medications
    • May ease but will not eliminate all the pain of labor
    • Amounts may be limited due to potential effects on your baby
  • Nitrous Oxide
    • A mixture of 50% Nitrous Oxide and 50% Oxygen that is inhaled through a mask.
    • Can help lessen both pain and anxiety during induction, natural childbirth and labor.
    • Self-administered via a mask you hold up to your face
    • May be utilized prior to epidural placement
  • Epidural
    • Requires needle insertion to place catheter into lower back
    • Pain relief medications administered continuously via catheter throughout labor

Cesarean Section

  • Spinal
    • Single injection of medication into the lower back which will result in numbness of the lower part of the body
  • Epidural
  • Combination Spinal/Epidural (CSE)
    • Combination of both spinal and epidural techniques providing rapid onset with potential to administer additional epidural medications if necessary.
  • General Anesthesia
    • Medication administration through your IV that will make you go to sleep for the delivery

Options for anesthesia for a Cesarean Section (C/S) are dependent upon how fast and urgent the C/S needs to be performed. The options for a planned elective C/S may differ from those for an unplanned C/S due to the amount of time required to establish an anesthetic.

It is optimal and most women prefer to be awake during a C/S; being awake allows you and your partner the opportunity to participate in the delivery. However, in some cases, general anesthesia may be required where there is inadequate time or epidural or spinal anesthesia is not possible. When general anesthesia is used, your care team needs to be focused on just you and your baby; therefore, your partner cannot be with you in the Operating Room.

Safeguarding you during Anesthesia

We encourage you to discuss the anesthetic options with your Obstetric Anesthesia Care Team early so that we may assist you in having a safe and joyful experience. It is important to inform us of the following:

  • Medical Problems
  • Problems during pregnancy
  • Current or recently discontinued medications (especially blood thinners or pain medications)
  • Personal/Family problems with anesthesia
  • Allergies to medications
  • Time of last meal.

The UC Health Obstetric Anesthesia Care Team looks forward to being a part of your birth experience!